Kenneth Liberman

The logic is made to dance. Rhythm in Tibetan debating

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Based on an ethnomethodological study of public Tibetan philosophical debates, the paper describes how rhythmic resources can be employed to make thinkers more attentive, stimulate the intellect, improve the clarity of the propositions being considered, and energize philosophical work. When a debate bears a seamless rhythm, each party can know just-how and just-when to fit in their contribution with the others' remarks. For that to happen, philosophers must listen attentively, and good philosophizing happens when people are listening closely to what their colleagues are saying. It is the objective of Tibetan formal public dialectics to orchestrate the mental flows of the contesting parties so that they can be conjoined into one, and in this task rhythm plays a leading role. The aim is to produce rhythmic synchronization that keeps the parties in intersubjective alignment. Their rhythmic tools enhance the clarity of the debate and the debaters' communication, i.e. help them to "make seen" the thinking they are doing. There is thus a direct relationship between rhythm and clear philosophical thinking. The merit of rhythmically well-ordered debates lies not only in their beauty, but also in the fact that a well-constructed rhythm can provide orderliness to dialogue and facilitate the thinkers' capacity to really hear what the others are saying. In this way, what is aesthetically satisfying can also be good philosophizing.


  • Intersubjectivity
  • Logic
  • Objectivation
  • Rhythm
  • Tibetan Philosophical Debate


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